Maurice Bailen Collection

Collection Items

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circa 1968
Art Institute Class Film
Art Institute Class Film
circa 1958
Great Depression
The Great Depression
The City
The City
circa 1961
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Items with Viewable Media
Collection Identifier
Extent of Collection
4 reels of 16mm film totaling approximately 1600 feet
Language Of Materials
Custodial History
The films were stored by Maurice's nephew, John Bailen, before being brought to the Chicago History Museum in August 2017. The museum subsequently referred the films to CFA in March 2019.
Access Restrictions
Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives for on-site access. Due to the fragile nature of the films, and the fact that they are rare, original work prints, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection.
Bailen, Maurice (was created by)
Maurice Bailen (1905-1980) was a filmmaker who lived in Chicago most of his life. His earliest training was in commercial art by working in art studios and taking courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked mostly as a photo engraver, but scenes of the bitter 1930s in Chicago became a natural background for his first film, The Great Depression (1934), a neo-realistic film presentation of those years.

His films were largely concerned with presenting social and political movements at turbulent times in American history, while also vividly capturing the people of Chicago. He was especially inspired by the films of Charlie Chaplin, John Huston, John Ford, Sergei Eisenstein, and G.W. Pabst. While in Paris in 1939, he had the privilege of observing Pabst direct the film The Liberation of Indochina at the Pathe Film Studio, which left a great impression.

According to an article written by Rick Bollinger and published by the Chicago Tribune on April 27, 1975, Bailen was often referred to as the “godfather of Underground Film in Chicago,” and many experimental filmmakers looked to him for guidance and inspiration. During the 1960s and 1970s, screenings of his films in various independent venues and cine-clubs throughout the city were often publicized as key destinations for local cinephiles to congregate and have an open discourse on film, art, and politics.